NEW YORK - The night of the bounce — almost all of them bad — has the New York Rangers one defeat away from being unceremoniously bounced from the Stanley Cup final.
It wasn’t that the Rangers weren’t good enough Monday night, although they weren’t, but it was that in combination with every break and deflection going against them putting the Los Angeles Kings up three games and in position to sweep the Cup.
The heavily favoured Kings finally played the part of favourite and then seemed to get every conceivable break on their way to a 3-0 victory in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden. And the Rangers have to be feeling now: What else can go wrong?
The first Los Angeles goal, which resulted in the Kings first lead of the series, came in the final second of period one after a Dan Girardi attempted to block a Jeff Carter shot, the puck deflected off his stick, Henrik Lundqvist moved in the other direction and still managed to get his glove partially on the puck.
By the way Lundqvist glared at his defenceman, it appeared he would have liked to see the puck without it changing directions.
That was the first goal. The second came on the power play, and again a bounce factored: An uncontested Jake Muzzin shot through traffic didn’t look like a serious scoring chance, but the puck first hit Martin St. Louis and then may have touched Carter’s skate and suddenly it was 2-0.
Two goals, two inadvertent deflections.
Then came goal three — Los Angeles scoring three goals on fewer than 13 shots on the great Lundqvist.
Fourth-liner Mike Richards, who plays both penalty kill and power play in his diminished role, came in on a 2-on-1 with Trevor Lewis on terrific Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh. McDonagh did what he’s supposed to do on the play — he blocked the pass with his skate — but with Lundqvist moving in one direction, the puck deflected back to Richards, whose shot beat the goalie moving the other way.
Three nothing after two periods. Three bounces that didn’t go New York’s way.
WILLIAMS THE GREAT
The more you watch Justin Williams, the more you have to be impressed with his play.
It isn’t just the statistical things he does, scoring goals and setting them up, it’s so many little plays he makes. He puts on a clinic of intelligent hockey almost every game he plays.
The way he defends, the way he attacks loose pucks on the boards, there are so many elements to what Williams does — and his vision is vastly underrated.
Williams patience in waiting to find Carter — and the vision used to do so — enabled Los Angeles to score the last second goal in the first period. Not many players in hockey make that play.
And along the same lines, the more you watch Drew Doughty, the more you realize the depth of his contributions.
Doughty took a second-period penalty on Rick Nash, with the big forward busting out from behind the Kings net and all but ready to shoot into an empty net — but Doughty pulled him down before Nash could shoot.
The penalty likely saved a goal — and Los Angeles killed the penalty successfully.
THE GOALIE MATCHUP
Jonathan Quick hasn’t had to be Jonathan Quick for most of the Stanley Cup. But he was Conn Smythe-like Monday night with his first spectacular game in quite a while last night.
This was the Quick of 2012, the impossible to score on goaltender, who hasn’t needed to be great consistently throughout this Cup run. The King score more goals. There isn’t as much dependence on him.
But Monday, Quick made at least five tremendous saves, the kind that change games, the kind that make him a once-in-a-lifetime goaltender. He took one away from Mats Zuccarello and another away from Derick Brassard that score on just about everybody in the game — and you can probably include Lundqvist on that list.
Quick opened up the third period stopping Chris Kreider on a breakaway in the early seconds.
Great as Lundqvist has been in this playoff run, he had to be out of his mind to keep the Rangers in this series: He hasn’t been able to be that.
THIS AND THAT
For all the excitement around and inside Madison Square for Game 3, it was the Kings who finally came out inspired for the first period, not the Rangers. While winning two games not playing their style of hockey, the Kings showed early on it was going to be their kind of game ... The last time the Kings won the Cup, they led 3-0 after three games and had to go six games before parading with the Cup. This series could end Wednesday ... Nash, hired to score goals for the Rangers, spent just 50 seconds on the power play through two periods last night. By comparison, Zuccarello played more than four power play minutes through the same time ... Carl Hagelin must be more injured than anyone is saying. The explosive winger was used sparingly by Rangers coach Alain Vigneault ... All-time Ranger greats Ed Giacomin and Rod Gilbert were introduced on the scoreboard here and received a larger hand than actors Bryan Cranston and Robert DeNiro ... The newly renovated Madison Square is spectacular to see, the scoreboard-clock is brilliant — and yet it doesn’t have the raspy, almost dirty feel of the old MSG.